because I am here!
My amazing partner in life asked me to write my bio for this web site. I told her I didn’t think I could do it and asked her if someone else could write it for me, but her response was, “Your bio should come from you; it’s better in your voice as readers are likely to want to hear all your because‘s—all the reasons that led you to write this book.”
And so I tried my best and wrote this:
“Jack Langedijk was born on April 27th, 1956 in Edmonton, Alberta. He is among ten children born to Jacobus and Alida Langedijk, who were Dutch immigrants. The family moved to an old farmhouse in the rural outskirts of a small town called Milton, which is not far from Toronto in the province of Ontario. They had only one neighbour and were surrounded by grazing cattle, noisy turkeys, and runaway pigs that kept escaping from the barn behind their house.
Growing up out in the country encouraged Jack’s imagination to wander and he had many dreams of what he would become.
It changed weekly. First it was Batman, then Dick Tracy, a magician much like the escape artist Houdini, then an inventor of space travel…Then more simple, realistic goals: being a farmer, a teacher and, after getting his first camera from collecting cereal box tops, a photographer. But his life’s focus seriously changed after becoming an altar boy and witnessing the influence a priest could have on a congregation. He marvelled at how all the people in church listened to what the priest was talking about. So, after two years of servicing mass, he was determined to dedicate his life to becoming a man of the cloth—spreading moving sermons to all the masses. But that dedication was quickly thwarted when he discovered an interest in girls and found out he would never be able to marry if he became a priest. Then, after joining his high school’s soccer team, he revelled in the glory of scoring two overtime goals and found he loved that feeling of watching a group of people all have one thing in common and put in all their energy, cheering for it to happen. He cherished being a part of what sport could create in people: a united purpose. Although ambitions of being a professional soccer player seduced him greatly, he was once again disappointed to find out that Canada didn’t have anyone that ever made a living playing the game. And so his dream of having screaming fans cheering eluded him.
But then, by total chance, he heard a calling. It was the voice of his high school band teacher coming over the intercom, telling him to come to the office at once. He was told that the school was staging a musical for the first time in twelve years and not one male student had auditioned. His music teacher told him that his marks were quite low as a drummer, but if he would play a part in the show, it would vastly shift his grade. And it was on the school cafeteria’s stage playing Moonface Martin—Public Enemy 13 in Anything Goes that he found something that would allow him to become more things than he could ever imagine: an actor.
After earning a BFA in performance arts in 1979 at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Jack started his journey of becoming an actor. But almost immediately he found out that if he wanted to act and make a living, he needed to start a company of his own since there were only two English language theatres in Montreal. So he founded three companies and over the next twenty years, he acted, directed, produced and helped new writers stage their own scripts!”
When I showed this to that best friend of mine—my wonderful loving wife—she just said, “Hey, that’s a good start but what did this part of your life’s story have to do with you writing the book?”
What a question that was! Like always, she made me think. Yeah, what does my life’s story have to do with the book I wrote? I questioned myself: Does it matter? Probably not! I mean, look at all the books out there; really, can every author say everything they wrote had something to do with their life? All the romance novelists, the writers of science fiction, comics, cookbooks, travel guides, history books, all those reference books—did all those people have a reason to write what they did? What were their because’s? Oh, and I went on and on trying to relieve myself from the duty of writing anymore of my bio. I knew if I just kept talking she might say okay, that was enough. People would see what direction my life was going and it would surely lead them to thinking I had a reason to write a book.
But after my obvious stalling tactic (which she saw through, but was patient enough to listen to me), she once again knew what to say. “You’re right,” she said. (Ah, it’s always good hearing, “You’re right,” so I felt this was going to work out for me). “Yes, there are lots of reasons why people write books,” she went on, “but we need to know what yours is, and you lived lots of other stuff other than acting, didn’t you?”
Of course, it’s true that I lived a lot of other stuff, but what more do people want to know? I’m tired. Come on, I wrote a WHOLE book, so I complained about how hard it was to write the book itself, that I just didn’t have anything left. I had writer’s block…and then I came up with the story of how I just didn’t have that elusive energy now. I had to confess to her that I didn’t have what it takes—of putting forth the gruelling effort to write about my life and explain why the book came to me. I mean, hadn’t I done enough? I mean, maybe for some very linguistically talented people—those incredible spirits that can sit in front of a blank page and just fill it with words that form ideas that burst into captivating stories—maybe they can write their own bios explaining the GREAT BIG BECAUSE of why they wrote their books. But me, well, I’m not one of them!
Then my very little, wise, Buddha-thinking love just smiled and asked me, “Every time someone found out you were writing a book, what was the first question they asked you?”
That was easy! They all asked me, “What’s it about?” And, just as I was about to open my mouth to talk, she gingerly put her finger to my lips and said, “And Jack, while you’re answering that, think about how much of the book is about you or comes from your actual life, and voila! There’s your bio!”
Okay, she had a point, although I was not so sure about the “voila!” part because very little voila ever came to me, but anyway, the next day I wrote this:
“When Jack was young he often was bullied at school. One gym teacher actually showed his cruelty by using Jack as an example of how not to do something. The teacher did this so he could win the favour of the other students that had already shunned and alienated Jack. This was the main reason Jack went all the way to another province to go to university, so he could get as far as possible from anyone from that hurtful past. After he graduated and started his own theatre companies, his passion for always standing up for the underdog was reflected in his work. He went on to produce many shows that were strongly based on the issues of the underprivileged, at risk kids and domestic violence—most of the shows he was interested in expressed his desire for stories about people that were responding to change.”
After she read this, she simply asked me, “So is this the end? Did you try to write a book then?” “No, I was too busy working, trying to make ends meet. A struggling artist’s theatre salary is not enough to make ends meet, you know.”
She didn’t say anything. She just gave me one of those knowing smiles—the same smile that made me fall in love with her and also the same smile that she gave me after I read every chapter to her when she came home from work each night. A smile that said, “I believe in you, so don’t stop now. Keep going!”
“So Jack turned to auditioning for films and television shows. This led him to a regular role in a television series and some lead roles in films. His agent was hounding him to move to Toronto to expand his career. Yet, six years after moving to Toronto in the mid-nineties and making a good living, he missed those days when the shows he produced had something significant to say. As exciting and financially rewarding as his life was, he felt he had lost that voice and passion for the things he wanted to express. He wasn’t giving anything back and his work created little difference in anyone’s life other than entertainment. Making people laugh and cry was wonderful but there were so many things he wanted to be a part of changing. So he needed a change.
He contacted a school counsellor and told her he wanted to do something for students. He wasn’t sure if it would be a documentary or starting some kind of arts program. The counsellor told him to go and see what other speakers and workshops were doing in the schools. So, for the next six months, he went three times a week and saw almost every program that was brought into the schools. Nothing really excited him until he found out about a project called “Challenge Day”. It was an American company that went into the schools and worked hands on with the students on an intense, yet celebratory day where students discovered that the support they needed was usually right beside them, they just needed to open the doors to it.
With the encouragement of the founders of Challenge Day, Jack founded his not-for-profit company, QUEST-I’m-ON and created programs and workshops based on the question: How can I feel safe with you and how can I make you feel safe with me?
QUEST-I’m-ON has led him to work with children from grades one to twelve, universities, families and now also corporations. His most popular program is getting high school students working with the grade school kids that are coming to that high school. The diversity of his programs range greatly from building empathy, dealing with bullying issues, telling your story, brainstorming to listening for leaders. His skills as an actor, director and producer have proven to be the greatest resource in helping to create healthy, happier, safer environments wherever he works.
Two friends who both have climbed Everest several times took him along to help create a documentary about seven Middle Eastern climbers from five different nations coming together to climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco. Jack wrote daily, kept a journal of the journey and constantly questioned why people feel this desire to climb? Where did it come from and with all the risks, why did they keep doing it? And suddenly, because started to fill the white empty computer screen. Jack had always wanted to write about his adventures in the schools, and this mountain climbing experience now catapulted him in to creating the main character of Roberto Sanchez—the character that would be the catalyst to tell the story—of Jack Langedijk’s because!”
And after I wrote this part, what did my darling dearest partner of mine say? Well, you know how people refer to a person as their rock when they are going through some kind of difficult journey or even wondrous adventure? Well, I can’t say that about her exactly because—ah, you see another because (we live so many)—okay, here it is: you know the amazing thing about finding that person in life that some people call their soul mate—or the one they’re destined to love—do you know what they say about finding your one true love? Well, that’s her. I found her, or she found me, and at times it’s true she was my rock, yet more often, she was every form of transportation: a ship to keep me sailing, a jet to keep me flying, a shoulder to carry me along. She did everything to constantly keep me moving. She’s my compass, allowing me to get lost, knowing all I have to do is look at her to see exactly where I am. My prayer is that every writer has someone like her: a muse, a good listener—someone who just has that simple thing called “faith.”
And, funny enough, in the end do you know what is the greatest thing about this bio is? Well, it’s not finished! YES and I hope I have many many more wonderful years to add to it!
Thank you all for sharing this gift with me and my love.